Since they just played my hometown AND this album celebrated a birthday in the same week, I figure what better way to usher in the return of Classic Albums than with DEF LEPPARD and the one that vaulted them from big stars to MEGA-stars, Hysteria. You see, in the summer of 1987 I didn’t have a whole lot to be happy about. My father had just passed away and my relationship with my mother was strained at best. Consequently we fought…a lot. And it was during one of my groundings that I realized today was Hysteria release day. Now, my cousin Franc had been over about a month earlier with the 12 inch single of “Animal” and I can remember not exactly being blown away. And when MTV unveiled the video for “Women” which was the first single here in the States, I thought, “Well now we’re gettin’ somewhere. “ Anyway, I wanted this record, and nothing was gonna stop me, not even the DRC. There was just one problem…I had neighbors to the right and across the street who kept an eye out and would rat in a New York Minute if they saw me.
As soon as I saw Mrs. Sullivan’s car leaving for her beauty parlor appointment I knew I had my window. I went through the back gate, hopped on my 10-speed, taking care to go in the opposite direction of the Spellerberg’s house and hauled ass to Record Collection. And there it was, on display and begging for it like a dirty, dirty girl. I grabbed the album, and a used copy of Defenders of the Faith from PRIEST and biked home as fast as my little legs would take me. All told I was gone 15 minutes, tops! I snuck back in, and waited for the phone to ring with the telltale sound that signified I’d been caught. Nope. Not today. I like to think Dad was looking out for me.
Now it was time to put the record on. “Women” was even better the second time around, and “Animal” also had me from note one. Guess I wasn’t paying enough attention the first go ‘round. “Love Bites” was the ultimate syrupy ballad, something 14-year old me was all about, but then…well then I heard IT. Well, what exactly is IT? IT would be the landmark song that catapulted DEF LEPPARD into the stratosphere, “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Sheer pop metal genius this was, and still is. There are few, if any among you who don’t still love this song and turn it up just a wee bit louder in the car, amiright? And hot on the heels of this fucking gem comes “Armageddon It” to close out side one! These two are songs that back when we were the Kings of USA Roller Rink everybody had to get out on the floor and rock to them…NO EXCUSES!
Side two opened on a more serious note with “Gods of War” and more up-tempo fare like “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” and “Run Riot” (Joe’s favorite song!) The latter of these being heavier than the rest of the record (which is saying a lot) and is easily the most reminiscent of the Pyromania-era. Next up is another personal favorite for me in the title track. There’s a longing in the music AND in Joe Elliot’s delivery that really makes this one a standout on an album full of them. And yet ANOTHER from my mixtape love song collection is next in closer “Love and Affection”. It is not the way you’d expect an album of this magnitude to end, and that’s one of the things I love most about it. When I finished the 65-minute opus I immediately flipped the record over and started again, and repeated this process for weeks on end, even making a tape of it to take on vacation to Puerto Rico a few weeks later. Also of note is that this tour was my first concert ever on October 18, 1987 and the band played their asses off to a Nassau Coliseum with an empty 300 section. Fast forward a year later, they were selling out The Meadowlands.
A lot happened to DEF LEPPARD in the four years leading up to Hysteria, and for the first year after its release things still looked pretty bleak until “Sugar” conquered the charts worldwide. And unfortunately, the Gods weren’t finished testing them, as on January 8, 1991 guitarist Steve Clark died too soon at the age of 30 while the band was riding a wave of popularity like they’d never seen. I have a lot of great memories, not only of his great guitar work, but of that summer, and of all my friends squeezing onto my sofa during Winter Break ’88 from school as we watched one video after another from this record while mom was at work, then frantically cleaning up before she got home! Man, that was a great time, and that’s why to me, Hysteria will always be a Classic Album. ~dc